Can I pledge my allegiance to politics?
Here’s one: Can you really be loyal to Jesus and also be loyal to a political party?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m sold on being salt of the earth. Light in the darkness. Voice for the voiceless. I love to see Christians getting involved in every sector of society. Some of the best evidence that you belong to the kingdom of heaven is when you make an actual impact on the kingdoms of earth. Penetration, blessing, and transformation are marks of the people of God, which is why I’d love for dozens of my friends to run for office and demonstrate the revolutionary way of Jesus in that arena. So I’m not asking if we should get involved; I’m asking if you can really follow Jesus and simultaneously follow one of these political parties.
They admitted they were aliens and strangers on the earth. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. (Hebrews 11:13, 13:14)
I watched Republicans do their thing last week as their convention took place a couple hours south of my city. I heard their enthusiasm and listened to their rhetoric, but I didn’t hear the kind of vision that lights up my soul.
I was watching the Democratic National Convention this week as the official party platform was adopted. You could feel the energy as the crowd of constituents roared in unanimous approval of the party’s official position. As I watched the faces of the screaming multitude I kept thinking, how in the world could I, as a disciple of Jesus, approve of that platform?
Because to be loyal to your party, you have to be all in. Smile and nod. Play your part. Post something on Facebook. But I just can’t relate.
Think about the ways key issues have come to be defined. Who got to decide how we frame all these political questions? Who decided that if an individual is pro-women’s rights that she has to be pro-abortion? Who decided that if a man is conservative he is therefore opposed to responsible stewardship of the environment? Why aren’t conservative Christians shouting to advocate for the stranger, the alien, and the poor? Why are liberal Christians so bold to advocate for justice and the poor, until the justice involves the unborn poor?
Remember being a kid when your friends would ask you if you can answer a “simple” yes or no question? Sure. “Does your mother know you’re an idiot.” It’s a bad question. It’s binary. Red or blue. Conservative or liberal. It often feels like political powers ask for a functional all-or-nothing loyalty. So why are we jumping in the ideological boxes created by the city of man, when we belong to the city of God?
Jesus himself has me thinking about this:
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)
Obviously Jesus was describing something deeper than his housing situation. It’s been mentioned that “foxes” and “birds of the air” were catchphrases for political and religious realities of the day. A fox may have been a turncoat Jew who fraternized with the enemy (e.g. Antipas in Luke 13), and birds of the air could refer to the gentile governments, most certainly including Rome.
People are so prone to look for holes and nests to rest their souls, and few things make bigger promises than political powers that be. But Jesus makes it clear: I don’t fit in here, and if you follow me you won’t either. Stop blending in; you’re an alien and a stranger.
So I come back to the fuel for this post.
Please tell me – if you follow Jesus – that you wrestle with the way Republicans construct a budget. If you’re a Democrat, please tell me you heard things at the Convention that grieved your soul. Please tell me you’re not drinking the koolaid. I’m not saying don’t vote; I’m saying, don’t lay your head down with foxes or birds (or in this case, donkeys or elephants). That’s not your tribe! If the Son of Man had no place to lay his political head, why are so many Jesus-followers so casual in doing so?
So what can we do?
1. Don’t get comfortable laying your head on a political pillow. Those sheets haven’t been changed in years and they reek of compromise. It’s okay to walk in that hotel room, but don’t spend the night. If you’re going to join the party, bring your light to the party. Invade the darkness with your alien identity.
2. Talk to people about the city of God. Make some noise. Be a voice from the city of God, not just an echo of the city of man.
3. Talk to God about the city of man. Stand in the gap. Seriously pray for (not against) the people of influence in your country, whether you agree with them or not. Pray for God’s will to be done. Pray for wisdom, and exercise your privilege to vote.
4. Ask better questions. People’s minds tend to follow the questions they’re asking. Help people ask good questions.
Here’s one to plagiarize: Why do you seek the living among the dead? (Luke 24:5)
That would be an angel talking. At an empty tomb. And it’s a loaded question.
Why do we keep seeking Jesus in all the wrong places?
Like a political party. Or dead religion. Or frozen in history as a 30-year old preacher. Or on gold-plated crosses. Why do we keep going back to the graveyards to find life? Why do we keep tuning into political conventions to find hope? Why do we look for the deepest cravings of our soul in countries that never satisfy?
Instead, they were looking for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:16)